The effects of virus infection of algae in marine environments has been studied extensively in recent years. However, virus impacts on freshwater environments and on the microbial players that are at the bottom of lake ecosystems are largely unknown. Nissimov, a researcher in the Department of Biology at the University of Waterloo, is looking to identify these freshwater viruses and how they may be impacting harmful algal blooms.
Harmful algal blooms occur when algae that produce toxins grow out of control in aquatic environments which can pose great risks to aquatic life, birds, and people. Nissimov’s funded study – Viruses of Harmful Algae: Friends or Foes? – looks to identify if viruses that infect harmful algae help reduce toxic blooms (acting as algal ‘foes’) or if they help harmful algae survive and outcompete their microbial counterparts (acting as algal ‘friends’).
Nissimov is the 5th ever recipient of this fellowship from the Phycological Society of America. This is a 3-year fellowship that acts as “seed” money for generating preliminary results that will help in the preparation of larger national and international grants, with the ultimate goal being to increase the likelihood of federal or other grant funding for the recipient.
“As an early career researcher, this prestigious award will help launch a novel research direction in my laboratory,” says Nissimov. “The results will be used to strengthen follow-up grant applications and elevate my work on the national and international stage as an early career researcher. This fellowship will also allow me to interact more closely with the North American Phycological research community, and train students in a research subject that I am passionate about.”
Learning about how viruses interact with their algal partners in freshwater environments will open the door to future studies in different environments, as well as gain insights on how these interactions relate back to climate change and accumulation of nutrients that feed algal blooms in North American watersheds.